I wrote last time about the first way of practicing mindfulness that the Buddha had taught: mindfulness of the body. This is the foundation of all effective mindfulness practice.
The second way of practicing mindfulness taught by the Buddha is mindfulness of feelings. Feelings is a word with many meanings in English. We use it to refer to everything from emotion to sensation. But the Buddha had something quite specific in mind. What he meant by it is noticing the quality of your experiencing, whether sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or thought. Specifically, feelings here means noticing whether what you are experiencing is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
Noticing the quality of our experiencing is important because our attachment to pleasant feelings creates craving. Our reaction to unpleasant feelings creates avoidance of certain aspects of our experience, thereby distorting the world we perceive. Feelings that are neutral may be regarded as boring, and thereby become unpleasant. Experiencing something as neutral is also a kind of delusion in that we close off to certain aspects of what is actually going on in our lives. The breath, for example, may be normally regarded as neutral, so that we pay little attention to it. But once we pay attention to it, we may come to see it as something quite pleasant and enjoyable. Seeing this makes the world we inhabit more interesting.
Mindfulness of feelings can be practiced by simply tuning in to what is happening with us, and and making a mental notation as to whether what we are experiencing is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. “Pleasant…pleasant… pleasant…” Or “Unpleasant…unpleasant…unpleasant…” By doing this, we expand our ability to be aware of life with a consciousness that is open and balanced and free.